Infertility can bring up a number of mental health concerns. And anxiety is probably the most common. Due to the nature of the treatments involved, you might already be very attuned with your bodies. Noticing subtle changes and become conscious of every possible ache, twinge or sensation in your body.
Your thoughts are racing and you are worried about all sorts of things you should or shouldn’t be doing. Which makes it very difficult to relax and not think about it. You wonder how you can possibly switch off and not think about something that is so important to you.
The first step is accepting that anxiety during fertility treatment is normal and can be expected. The second step is finding ways to reduce your anxiety when it appears.
Identify what triggers your anxiety
When you are feeling anxious think about the things in the lead up to how you are feeling now. Take some time to list them down. Don’t worry about solutions just yet. Just think about what might be causing you to feel anxious.
Is there someone close to you that’s currently pregnant?
Are you experiencing side effects from the hormone treatments?
Are your friends and family members giving you their advice?
Is social media playing a role in how you feel right now?
Is it the fact that you have no control over this?
What are your symptoms?
Next, think about the symptoms of your anxiety and how it manifests itself. Do you experience physical symptoms like trembling hands, butterflies in your stomach or difficulty sleeping? You may even experience some more severe symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting.
Also, consider your thoughts and emotions. You might be thinking negative thoughts and feel worried, angry, sad, depressed and even excited. It can be common to feel all of those feelings at once, which can be quite confusing.
When you are anxious, what do you need?
Think about other times, before your infertility diagnosis, when you were anxious. And think about what you needed during that time.
Some people like to be surrounded by friends and family during times of uncertainty. While others prefer privacy.
Some people like to get away from it all with their partners so they can reconnect with each other.
Others just need someone to talk to. Whether that is their partner, a friend or family member, or even a professional.
Or you might just really need a break or a distraction.
Talk to your partner about your anxiety
Now that you know more about your anxiety, it’s time to talk to your partner about it. Go through the above exercises with your partner and compare your answers.
Are there any similarities?
What about the difference?
Talk through what each of you needs and help each other to be more aware of the signs that you need help with your anxiety.
Create a plan to manage your anxiety during fertility treatment
Now that you know your triggers as well as the signs and symptoms in yourself and your partner, work out what you can do to help and support each other. If you need additional support, consider sharing it with your friends and family.
Anxiety distraction techniques
Many people with anxiety find it best to keep busy with a range of activities keeping them distracted from worrying thoughts. But it’s also helpful to work on one thing at a time. So pick the most prominent issue and work on that first. If you are still thinking about everything else, try writing it all down. Then focus on one thing until it’s done before moving on to something else.
“It’s better to do one thing well than ten things poorly.” ― Heather Hart
Here are some more ideas to get you started:
- Phoning a friend or family member
- Low impact exercises such as walking, yoga, tai chi and swimming
- Relaxation therapy
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Massage and aromatherapy
- Listening or dancing to music
It can also be helpful to give yourself a certain time to think about your worries related to your fertility treatments. Pick a time during the day where you give yourself five or 10 minutes to think about your concerns. It can also be helpful to do this with your partner. Set aside some time, say during dinner, to talk about it together. After the time is up, try to move on until it’s time to talk or think about it again tomorrow.
Broaden your support networks
Fertility treatment is so challenging for couples because it impacts both of you at the same time. The impact is quite broad and may affect you both in different ways. Some may be due to your individual personalities. And some due to the conditioning you received growing up.
Most likely, you will each have different styles of coping, which can sometimes cause conflict. Women often like to talk about their problems over and over. Whereas men tend to process things internally.
But different coping styles can also be very helpful. Your partner may be able to help you see things from a different perspective and vice versa. Which can be extremely powerful when you are both reacting to the same situation at the same time.
But broadening your support networks can help you vent your thoughts and feelings, relate to others and find comfort in the fact that you are not alone on this journey. Local and online infertility support groups are a great source of comfort and inspiration to men and women alike. Connecting with others who have already experienced what you are going through and truly understand what it’s like is an excellent way to manage your anxieties.
Give yourself something to look forward to
As well as planning how you can cope with anxiety it can be beneficial to have some fun activities planned to coincide with the difficult periods. And there are two reasons why you should plan these ahead of time. Firstly, it gives you something good to look forward to. And second, if you have something planned in advance you are more likely to go through with it, especially if there are other people involved.
Some things you can plan are:
- Manicure or pedicure
- Go to the movies
- Weekend or night away with your partner or by yourself
- Dinner with friends
- Go for a drive to explore somewhere nearby
Things to remember about your anxiety and infertility
Anxiety is normal during fertility treatment.
You may not be able to completely rid yourself of all of your anxiety, but you can become a lot better at managing it.
Try to maintain realistic expectations of yourself and your partner.
What works for one person might not work for you. And know that different things might work for you at different times. So create your own formula of what works for you.
If your fertility treatments don’t work, expect to feel like crap and use your formula for combating anxiety to get you through.
At any stage during your infertility journey, it’s ok to seek professional help. Many people can find it worthwhile to speak to someone before they even experience anxiety. This can help you learn coping strategies and plan how to manage anxiety during fertility treatment.
But you don’t need to be experiencing infertility to utilise any of the things you’ve learned. Anxiety can appear at any stage of life and can be managed using the same methods.